Resident Evil 9: What the sequel to RE Village needs to get right
With Resident Evil Village winning multiple Game of the Year awards, a Resident Evil 9 seems inevitable, but what should the game look like? Also, what clues did the previous games provide for the sequel?
Resident Evil Village teased a Resident Evil 9 once the credits rolled, but it also left lots of plot threads up in the air for fans to dissect. Capcom’s horror series has been steadily building to a crescendo since introducing the Winters family in Resident Evil 7, and Resident Evil 9 looks set to be the epic finale to their story.
However, what do we know about this unannounced but inevitable sequel, and what does Resident Evil 9 need to do to emulate the success of Resident Evil Village? Finally, how does the game avoid becoming a disappointment like Resident Evil 6? Let’s explore everything we know.
Naturally, spoilers for Resident Evil Village, 7, and pretty much every other game in the series will appear below.
Resident Evil 9: Concluding the Winters’ family saga
There are many important family names in the Resident Evil universe; Redfield, Wesker, Spencer, but since Resident Evil 7, the series has been dominated by the Winters family’s drama. What started as an ordinary man searching for his missing wife has turned into an epic saga of gods, monsters, and bioweapons.
It’s also connected to the wider Resident Evil universe and changed what we thought we knew about the origins of the Umbrella corporation and their sinister research. While Resident Evil 7 originally felt like a soft reboot, both it and Village are now firmly established as vital chapters in Resident Evil lore.
Ethan Winter’s quest to protect his family succeeded, but seemingly at the cost of his own life. However, the Winter’s family saga isn’t over yet, and Resident Evil 9 looks to be the final and definitive chapter in this undead soap-opera. As the end of RE Village told us, ‘The father’s story is now done,’ but not the daughter’s.
Avoiding that third chapter curse
The next Resident Evil game may be the ninth mainline entry, but it’s also likely to be the third (and potentially final chapter) in the story of Ethan, Mia and Rose Winters. This means the game risks suffering from franchise fatigue and will need to differentiate itself from Resident Evil 7 and Village, but without straying too far from what made those games successful.
It’s a delicate balance to get right and horror games can struggle to pull it off. Resident Evil 9 needs to pull a Silent Hill 3 and avoid becoming the next Dead Space 3. Neither simply upping the action nor stripping the game back to pure survival horror will be enough. The game will need to cater to fans of both RE7 and Village, while also carving out its own legacy.
Enter Rose Winters
The good news is a brand-new protagonist with a variety of new and exciting abilities may be just what the game needs to shine. The ending of Resident Evil Village showed a now grown-up Rose Winters (either through time or rapid aging like Eveline) under SWAT team surveillance due to her unpredictable nature.
It’s clear that Capcom is positioning Rose as RE9’s protagonist, and the fact that she is a walking, talking bioweapon makes for an interesting dynamic. Resident Evil has flirted with superpowered characters before, with Jake Wesker in Resident Evil 6 being an example of a playable character enhanced by Umbrella’s many viruses.
Even Ethan Winters displayed some uncanny healing abilities in Resident Evil Village. This was later explained during the game’s big twist, with Ethan having actually died in RE7, then coming back to life as a mold mutant, like many of the creatures he’d spent two games killing.
Yet Ethan was still able to father Rose in this undead state, along with his wife, Mia Winters, who also spent several years being infected by Eveline’s mold. Several characters in Resident Evil Village reference how powerful and unique Rose is, even the grown-up Rose tells her handlers that they have no idea what she can do.
The question is, how will Capcom make these powers transition into gameplay? More importantly, how can Resident Evil 9 still retain any semblance of survival horror if we’re playing as a superpowered protagonist?
Horror vs Action
After the Hollywood action chaos that was Resident Evil 6 failed to win over fans or critics, Capcom stripped the franchise back to its bare bones for Resident Evil 7, creating a true survival horror experience. The game combined what made the original RE successful with modern first-person horror elements in a risky experiment that ultimately paid off.
Resident Evil Village upped the ante when it came to action, but never lost its identity as a horror experience. Even the universally adored Resident Evil 4 didn’t balance horror and action as well as Village. But the question is, what happens now?
Just when Capcom thinks they’ve nailed the Resident Evil formula, it begins to grow stale. RE6 and both versions of RE3 fell afoul of this. Not only does Resident Evil 9 need to avoid the pitfalls of being the third in a trilogy, but it also needs to get the action/horror blend right, gauge players’ desires, and deliver a product that ticks every box.
The first-person perspective
Aside from horror vs action, one of Resident Evil’s most contentious debates relates to camera angles. In fact, this debate is often linked to the action vs horror debate, with some fans arguing that the game is incapable of being true survival horror unless it brings back the fixed-camera angles of the early RE titles.
In 2021, this has been proven false. The RE2 remake and RE7 both demonstrated that RE can do survival horror perfectly well with modern camera angles, be it first-person or the over-the-shoulder style of the recent remakes.
As fans turn their attention to Resident Evil 9, these debates are likely to resurface again, with some fans arguing RE9 should go back to an earlier camera style. Lots of RE fans will still be uncomfortable with RE being in first-person. It was a radical departure from what had come before, so those that fell in love with the series on the PS1 or during the RE4 era do have our sympathy.
However, nobody can argue that Resident Evil in first-person doesn’t work or can’t be scary. The traditional RE mechanics work just as well in first-person and it also lets the series borrow from recent horror masterpieces like Amnesia, Outlast, and Alien Isolation. It also allows RE9 to remain congruent with RE7 and Village. It is the third part of a trilogy, after all.
Looking beyond Resident Evil 9
Resident Evil may reinvent itself again after Resident Evil 9, but that game should be a true and definitive conclusion to the Winter’s family saga. It can also only deliver that by emulating what worked for 7 and Village, as well as delivering on its own merit.
Until Capcom begins talking about Resident Evil 9 though, fans have the upcoming free Resident Evil Village DLC to look forward to. We also feel like this DLC will give us some more insight into what RE9 will look like.
Resident Evil Village owners will also get to play its online multiplayer companion game RE: Verse in 2022 when this finally releases. There’s also Resident Evil Outrage to consider, here’s everything we know about that mysterious Nintendo Switch game.